A tour of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: its crypt (Part 1)

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is the most important work of Romanesque art in Spain. It also symbolizes the final goal of all pilgrims and the destination where all the Ways that for centuries have united us in this journey of will, love and hope end.

It is very difficult to express in words its vision and the perception that it will cause in us at the end of our tour. However, we thought it would be interesting to dedicate a series of articles to highlight the importance of this architectural and sculptural legacy declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Some time ago we told you about the Plaza del Obradoiro and the buildings that surround it. From this same square we can access the interior of the Cathedral from a double staircase. However, before doing so, we should visit its crypt.

It was built around 1168 by Master Mateo to bridge the existing gap between the pavement of the temple and the square. Its structure corresponds to that of a small temple with ambulatory, built around a central pillar.

Unlike the Pórtico de la Gloria, which has a clear celestial allusion, the crypt has an earthly character… proof of this are its capitals decorated with plant motifs.


One of its thick columns supports the mullion of the Portico de la Gloria and the other the facade of the Obradoiro.

But possibly what strikes us most is its ribbed vault (the first of its kind to be built in Spain). If the crypt itself represents the Earth that is at the feet of Christ, the vault evokes the celestial space, where two angels in their keystones carry one the Sun and the other the Moon.

Un ángel porta el símbolo del Sol

On it sits the glory that is staged on the upper floor through the Portico of Glory.

Currently this space of the crypt has been used to place showcases with reproductions of the instruments played by the 24 elders represented in the Portico of Glory or pieces that were once part of the Cathedral.

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